World number three Garbine Muguruza was sent packing from the Sydney Classic in the quarter-finals Thursday by clinical Russian Daria Kasatkina, who continued her strong start to the season ahead of the Australian Open.
Muguruza had a first-round bye then had to battle hard to topple 40th-ranked Ekaterina Alexandrova, before crashing to Kastakina 6-4, 6-4.
It was the second semi-final in as many weeks the Russian has reached after losing in the last four of the Melbourne Summer Set to eventual champion Amanda Anisimova.
Kasatkina is a former world number 10 who bounced back up the rankings to 26 last year after winning two titles and reaching a further two finals.
“It’s very good preparation before a Slam,” she said. “At the beginning I was a bit over-excited but in the end I was able to control myself and make a few good decisions.”
She will meet ninth-ranked Paula Badosa for the place in Saturday’s final after the Spaniard fought past Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Belinda Bencic 7-6 (8/6), 3-6, 6-3.
Among the men, Russia’s Aslan Karatsev defeated Italian Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 to make the semis while British veteran Andy Murray enjoyed an easier passage.
The former world number one, who has been given a wildcard into the Australian Open, was back in the changing rooms after one set when David Goffin retired after losing the opener 6-2.
Murray will now meet Reilly Opelka after he beat fellow American Brandon Nakashima in straight sets.